A new campaign challenging the public’s “wrong beliefs” about how victims react to rape has been backed with Scottish Government cash.
Ministers have awarded £30,000 to Rape Crisis Scotland for the initiative, which makes clear it can be a “natural and common reaction” for people not to scream or fight back if they are sexually assaulted.
The awareness raising campaign, which includes two short animated films, is launched ahead of a change in the law this year which will require judges to give jurors specific directions in some cases.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “The public understanding of sexual assault is changing but myths still exist around the behaviour of victims and perpetrators. We support the work of Rape Crisis Scotland to tackle these wrong beliefs in the public.”
He added that changes to the instructions given by judges could allow jurors to consider the evidence in an “informed and balanced way”.
These will apply in cases where there is evidence of a delay in the victim reporting the offence, where a victim did not physically resist their attacker, and where someone did not use physical force when committing a sexual assault.
Mr Matheson said: “Rape has a devastating impact on the victim and we do not want the trauma to be extended into the victim’s experience in the justice system.
“At a time when victims of sexual offences have increasing confidence in reporting to the police, this new statutory requirement for judges to give jury directions in certain sexual offence cases will make a real difference in ensuring juries approach court evidence in an informed and balanced way.”
Rape Crisis Scotland co-ordinator Sandy Brindley said: “Many survivors tell us that during a rape they froze and were unable to fight back or scream. This is a natural and common reaction, but not one that members of the public will necessarily be aware of.
“It is important to increase public awareness of reactions to rape, and we are delighted that the Scottish Government has provided funding for a public awareness campaign which will support and maximise the impact of the new legislative provisions.
“We also welcome the introduction of jury directions in rape cases as a significant step forward. Providing jury members with factual information on reactions to rape should help to ensure that verdicts in sexual offence cases are based on the evidence presented, rather than being influenced by assumptions about how rape victims will react.”